In his response to ENIL’s call for EVS applications, Roland Benjamin, a 33-year-old disabled man from the UK, highlighted the important point that most support services are organised on a national level and as a consequence cannot be used when traveling, working or living in other (EU) countries. This is an important barrier which still restricts the possibility of disabled people to apply for EVS. You can read Roland’s story bellow.
“My name is Roland Benjamin, I am 33 years old. Up until 2003 I was just an average student living in High Wycombe, a medium-sized town 30km from London, England. I had just finished my first year at university and returned home for the summer. At the time I used to ride a lot of BMX. However, on my second day back home, I suffered a BMX accident which led to a spinal cord injury. I got paralysed from the chest down, my arms and fingers were also affected.
At the time of my accident direct support came from the National Health Service (NHS). I needed intensive rehabilitation and received it in the rehabilitation wards of the National Spinal Injuries Centre. There I learnt a lot about my new life when I go out of hospital. I was also supported by social advisers to claim the money I would need to adapt to my new needs.
Luckily I receive a fully furom the UKnded personal assistant who helps me to be as independent and spontaneous as possible. This has allowed me to be active in many things such as completing a degree course at my local university, volunteering at local charities and socialising with friends. After leaving hospital it did take a few years before I felt fully comfortable, being included in society again.
Personally I believe the single largest difficulty for disabled people to fully engage in communities at home and abroad is public transport and the general attitude towards it. Although things have improved there is still a lot of work to be done. Many train and tube stations cannot be used by a disabled person on their own. Taxi services often charge disabled customers more than others, which is ridiculous!
The most restrictive thing for me when travelling abroad is the cost of taking a full-time assistant with me. The cost of my assistant’s salary is covered for short trips but if I leave the country for more than 4 weeks I lose the funding to pay my assistant. This is making living or working in another country impossible. I cannot leave the country for more than 4 weeks at a time and still receive a funded carer. Also, there is the problem of covering the travel costs for my assistant. It would be very helpful if airlines could offer a discounted rate for assistant staff to accompany disabled people similar to what cinemas, railways and theatres already do. I believe this alone would extremely help disabled people travel more freely around the EU.
Other factors include the benefit rules meaning recipients cannot leave the country for more than 28 days. Last of all I think many of the opportunities are not known about by the people that need them. Disability organisations need to reach disabled people and inform them about their rights and about the ways they can contribute to the process of inclusion – for themselves and for other disabled people as well.”